Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Villagers affected by dam meet with government officials

Villagers affected by dam meet with government officials

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A view of the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam construction site in Stung Treng province in 2016. The dam is scheduled to start generating power by the end of this year. Photo supplied

Villagers affected by dam meet with government officials

Villagers from Stung Treng whose homes stand to be flooded by the Lower Sesan II dam met with representatives of the Ministry of Mines and Energy at an NGO Forum-sponsored meeting in Phnom Penh yesterday, in hopes of establishing a dialogue towards a long-awaited compromise.

One observer, however, said the meeting was fruitless, and faulted the government for failing to offer any new alternatives to the holdouts.

Nong Sareth, the Ministry of Mines and Energy’s deputy director of hydro-electricity, said that four villages, or 846 households, in Sesan district will be flooded as a result of the dam project. Of these households, Sareth said, 126 – or 13 percent – have not accepted compensation.

According to Sareth, compensation for each household includes one 80-square-metre house with 1,000 square metres of land, plus 5 hectares of farm land and a stipend of 20 kilograms of rice per month for one year.

Sareth said the dam will operate its first turbine in November 2017. Seven other turbines will go into operation in 2018, ultimately generating 400 megawatts of power.

But villagers remain reluctant to go. Nath Sota, an ethnic Lao villager from Sesan district’s Sre Kor village, said she wants the government to allow her and other villagers to stay on their ancestral land.

Moreover, she said her current location enables her to make a living growing crops and fishing. “I feel sorrow for my farmland, my ancestors’ tombs . . . [Even] if we would be flooded, we still want to live here,” said Sota.

Srey Libi, a villager who already accepted compensation and moved to a location 10 kilometres from the hydro dam, said that villagers who relocated found themselves lacking roads and clean water.

He added that villagers who moved no longer have work and requested that the government continue providing them with rice for five years.

Sareth responded that he would report the villagers’ concerns to his ministry and that he intends to maintain dialogue with those who did not accept compensation. He was steadfast, however, that they could not go on living in their villages, because flood waters could rise as high as 3 or 4 metres.

Bun Leap, a coordinator of 3s Rivers Protection Network (3SPN) who attended the meeting, said that yesterday’s discussion was not fruitful as the ministry did not offer the villagers any new solutions, such as allowing them to stay in four “safe” locations they have identified closer to their original homes.

“We will keep advocating the ministry to consider whether villagers can be allowed to move to that place once the flood comes.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Stock photo agencies cash in on Khmer Rouge tragedy
    Stock-photo companies selling images from S-21 raises ethics concerns

    A woman with short-cropped hair stares directly into the camera, her head cocked slightly to the side. On her lap is a sleeping infant just barely in the frame. The woman was the wife of a Khmer Rouge officer who fell out of favour, and

  • Prime Minister: Take back islands from inactive developers

    The government will “take back” land on roughly 30 islands from private companies that have not made progress on planned developments, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech on Monday that also targeted land-grabbing villagers and idle provincial governors. Speaking at the inauguration of the

  • Land on capital’s riverfront is opened up for investment

    The government has signed off on a proposal to designate more than 9 hectares of land along Phnom Penh’s riverfront as state-private land, opening it up for private investment or long-term leasing. The 9.25-hectare stretch of riverfront from the capital’s Night Market to the

  • Royal Group's Koh Rong luxury hotel officially opens

    The Royal Sands Koh Rong hotel on Monday marked its official launch as the first luxury resort on Cambodia’s most visited island. Prime Minister Hun Sen presided over the inauguration of the hotel, which has been open since December, and features rooms priced at